Miriam Andrade

CMI-Spanish | English<>Spanish Interpretation

Meet: Mary Hernandez Castellanos

Mary has been a great mentor to me. She was someone I knew would always be willing to answer my questions and give me all kinds of recommendations. She is a Remote and On-site freelance community interpreter, and she is CHI certified. I prepared some questions for Mary to answer in this interview, to which you will find her answers below. I hope you all enjoy our discussion and make sure to connect with Mary via her socials I have linked below!

Q: How long have you been working as an interpreter?

I’ve been working as an interpreter since September 2017, so a little close to 5 years and that was when I finished my schooling so I like to say officially really getting my feet wet 2018 for sure.

Q: How was your experience starting out?

My experience starting out was a little scary and exciting. Because of my internship I knew what I was getting myself into but my fear was always “Am I going to be good enough for this assignment?” or “Am I going to have the speed that’s needed for the simultaneous?” “If it’s consecutive, lord, I’m going to forget everything!”. It was a lot of fear and excitement. I wanted to be perfect, but I wanted to do what I now know then, I wanted to speed up the process. It was very exciting, I was just ready to venture out on that new journey.

Q: You’ve told me you started your training in the legal field but ending up loving community interpreting more, what made you take a different route?

The reason I decided to take a different route was when I did my observations for court interpreting it was very intimidating and I didn’t like the setting. The reason I liked to go into interpreting specifically freelancing was because I was able to have different settings at all times unless I became a staff interpreter which wasn’t my goal. When I went into the court room not only was it intimidating, the atmosphere, the environment was just very cold for my personality and my liking. When I also did my internship, I realized that helping the community, although I’m not going to say legal isn’t helping the community, but when it comes down to being close with our community members I felt this joy and just my heart was full every single time i was done interpreting for anyone in the community. I did my internship at Harriet Buhai Family Law and working with these women and lawyers and just these families, it wasn’t a paid internship and I wanted to keep going and i just knew i loved serving my community and being that bridge that connected two worlds by words and thats when i decided being in a court room wasn’t for me and being in the community was something that was my calling.

Q: What has helped you improve as an interpreter?

What has helped me improve as an interpreter is just practice, working, and hands on. I really do believe that the more experience, the more we practice, the more we are hands on at least for myself that’s how I learn. I’m very hands on, I have to get my hands, my feet, everything in whatever it is, what ever project I’m doing and what has helped me grow as an interpreter or helped in my profession is the experience and being open to constructive criticism and allowing myself to make mistakes as well as learning from those mistakes whether it comes down to my rendition, my speed, and the assignments I take and all, so experience for sure and doing it.

Q: When did you start doing RSI assignments and what was it like?

I started doing remote simultaneous interpretation as soon as the pandemic hit in 2020. I think i gave myself two weeks of mopping and wondering if the world was ending and then i decided to find out and offer my services remotely to my clients. At that time we didn’t have too much knowledge at least not myself or many of my clients didn’t have much knowledge of the video remote interpretation, let alone simultaneous interpretation so I started offering my services with a phone or we can do the meetings in a conference line or what not, so little by little we started to get to know these different platforms and thats when I started doing it. I think three weeks into the pandemic so April of 2020 we were already up and going and starting to get to know platforms and thats when I started RSI.

Q: Do you remember the first RSI assignment you did?

I do. I remember I was sent a link by my clients that i had already talked to regarding we can do video and then we can do a conference line and what not you know so i got sent a link and the link said “life size”. I had no idea what this “life size” was. I was practicing on zoom or google and so I was thinking “Oh my goodness is this like a hologram? Like am i gonna be a hologram? I don’t have the equipment for that!” and so I started looking at what is lifesize and when you would look for it, well back then when you would look for it it said you know “video calling” and what not so I’m thinking “Oh my gosh I don’t have the equipment for this!” and it literally was just video…it’s just a video platform. thats all it is there’s nothing to it theres no simultaneous interpretation, theres nothing else besides a video. so that was my first VRI and we had to use a conference line so we had spanish members on a spanish line in a conference line and all of the english members on this “life size” platform that I dont favor very much its a quick fix if you need it but I don’t favor it and so that was my first one it was very tricky, you know, getting to know muting and un-muting. I had to make sure that I was on mute if I was rendering into the video and come on mute if I was then going to be talking into the conference line so there was a lot that my brain had to adjust to in that first meeting and a lot that I had to evaluate on how I was going to be able to manage these remote meetings and be successful at it so it was fun and at the same time a learning experience and I will always remember “life size” and its not a hologram! It is just a video platform.

Q: What is one of your favorite thing about your job as an interpreter?

So as we know this was a very easy one…everything! but definitely my favorite part is seeing the face of my listeners light up or seeing their nods in either agreement or disagreement with what their hearing because that means I’m doing my job and that means that they’re understanding and that they’re engaged and participating in this three way conversation from one language through me to their ears and vise versa. It’s just that to me has got to be the most gratifying ing moment and my favorite part of my professional part as a community interpreter. I know that in like conference interpreting or in a more big event setting you don’t get to see too much nods or the yes and the no’s but in community interpreting and in board meetings and trainings you’re able to see your audience. Even in educational conferences, unless you’re tucked away in a booth you have more of a connection with your audience and you’re able to see them participate and when you have breakout rooms. I just feel like that is my favorite part being able to know that those nods, those looks and the participation is without them telling me that i’m doing a good job i know i’m doing a good job. I think it’s both ways, its not just a confirmation to know that I’m doing a good job, but knowing they’re understanding what’s being said.

Q: Do you have any advice for either new interpreters or interpreters who would like to get into RSI?

Yes, get an Ethernet cable! I do advise that you do invest in a headset and or just a noise canceling type of headset, it is okay to use your earphones that’s fine but just remember that just as well as you can hear the participants who are moving around when they accidentally come off mute, thats the same concept with you. Thats what your listeners are going to be listening to if you have the inappropriate earpiece or headphone and you’re moving around and interpreters we tend to move. We tend to have to grab notes, or we’re writing we tend to do that so keep that in mind that if anything is touching your face or just your hair what not that hair that noise is going to come through so invest in a good headset. Be wired up, the ethernet cable is going to be your lifesaver. Sound matters, technology matters when its remote. Keep your equipment charged up, always have back ups, get to know the platform you’re going to be on and have fun!

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